When John Lennon met Paul McCartney in the 1950s, it was a historic moment. They became the driving force behind the unfathomable success of the Beatles from the 1960s until today. What made their song writing relationship so special? What were the seeds sown during the Beatles years that led each man to create very different solo careers?
Throughout the Beatles legendary career as a band, the creativity of both John and Paul complimented each other nicely. Paul often gave John the little piece he needed for a particular song, and vice versa. When the Beatles first came on the music scene, it was incredibly rare that a band wrote their own songs. From the beginning, the extraordinary songwriting of the John and Paul team lead the band to success.
Now that many years have passed, John is no longer with us, and both men have solid personas in the collective mind of their fans, it is very easy to forget that Paul was the one who was into experimentation musically back in the mid-1960s. He came up with the idea for Sgt. Pepper and really wanted to grow musically. Since then, John has been portrayed as the innovator and the more “edgy” musician. This is due in large part to his relationship with Yoko Ono and his desire to become politically active.
When considering the solo careers of each, it is also easy to forget that it was Paul who was first out of the gate. In fact, it was his desire to create solo work that lead to the break up of the Beatles, not Yoko Ono. Under his contract, Paul had to choose between staying with the Beatles and creating solo work. The only way out of the contract was to sue his three best mates. From what I’ve read, it was an agonizing decision and he wanted to do anything but that. In the end, he sued, and it just added fuel to the fire. It was the start of the feud between Lennon and McCartney that lasted for most of the 1970s. Fortunately, it appears from what I read that Lennon and McCartney made up before John was murdered in December of 1980.
In today’s world, Lennon is seen as the rock revolutionary and Paul is seen as a sentimental creator of pop. This perception, which is actually a misconception, was created in the wake of their very public feud. For example, John stated in “How Do You Sleep?” “the only thing you did was ‘Yesterday'” – a clear jab at McCartney. Everyone knows that it isn’t true, but if something is repeated often enough, it takes on the aura of truth. McCartney, of course, responded with “Silly Love Songs,” which was an answer to his critics, as well as Lennon.
Today, the misconceptions don’t matter much. Most people realize that John was capable of some very sentimental pop and that McCartney could produce some great rock songs (think of “Jet” and “Live and Let Die”). McCartney certainly contributed much more to the Beatles than just his good looks and “Yesterday.” The truth be told, the Beatles could not have been as successful without the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney. The songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney could not have been as successful is both partners weren’t extraordinary. The success of the Beatles is largely due to the unique partnership of two of music’s most talented men.